Tuesday night’s speech was originally conceived by the White House as an opportunity to highlight the improving outlook for the coronavirus and redefine Biden’s domestic policy priorities as a way to reduce costs for families facing rising inflation. But it has taken on new significance with the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week and the nuclear crackdown by Vladimir Putin.
Biden, in his remarks, planned to emphasize the bravery of the Ukrainian defenders and the determination of a recently renewed Western alliance that has worked to re-equip the Ukrainian army and impose sanctions on Russia to cripple its economy.
Biden will talk about “the importance of the United States as a world leader, the defense of values, the defense of world norms, and the efforts it has made to mitigate how it will affect the people here,” said Jen. . said Psaki on Monday.
Biden will address a mostly crowded and optional crowd with a mask in the House of Representatives, a sign of the relaxation of the coronavirus threat. But he will also speak through a recently fenced Capitol amid renewed security concerns following last year’s uprising.
Rising energy prices as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine threaten to exacerbate US inflation, which is already at its highest level in 40 years, reducing American profits and threatening the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic. And while the geopolitical crisis in Eastern Europe may have helped alleviate partisan tensions in Washington, it cannot eliminate the political and cultural divisiveness that calls into question Biden’s ability to fulfill his commitment to promoting national unity.
Biden will take the podium as Americans are frustrated with his performance as president. An AP-NORC poll in February found that more people disapproved than approved of Biden’s handling of the presidency 55% to 44%. This is lower than a 60% favorable rating last July.
White House officials acknowledge that the mood in the country is “sour”, citing the prolonged pandemic and inflation as sources of responsibility. Biden, in his speech, will point out the progress made a year ago – with the majority of the country now vaccinated and millions more at work – but also acknowledge that the work is not yet done, a recognition of American resentment. .
Biden’s aides say they believe the national psyche is a “backward indicator” and will improve over time. However, time is running out for the president, who must salvage the agenda of his first term to revitalize his party’s political fortunes ahead of the November midterm elections.
The president was to cite investment in everything from broadband access to $ 1.2 trillion in bipartisan infrastructure law in November, citing the government as an example of reaching consensus and bringing change to the American people. .
He also planned to call on lawmakers to reach a compromise on competitive bills passed by Parliament and the Senate, both of which aimed to revitalize US high-tech production and supply chains in the face of growing geopolitical threats from China.
The talk comes as progress on many of Biden’s other legislative priorities remains a stalemate in the Capitol after Republican Sen. Joe Manchin canceled the Biden’s Build Back Better spending bill last fall.
As part of his proposal to voters, Biden will seek to revive elements of the legislation, but with a new emphasis on how proposals such as extending the child tax deduction and reducing childcare costs could alleviate families as well. prices are rising. He was also ready to show how his proposals for climate change would reduce costs for lower- and middle-income families and create new jobs.
“The president will definitely use the word inflation tomorrow and will talk about inflation in his speech,” Psaki said. But he stressed that Biden focused on “how people experience it” instead of seeing it as a statistic.
As part of that push, Biden is expected to call for a reduction in American health care costs by submitting his plan to authorize Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, as well as extend more generous health insurance subsidies that are now available. through the Affordable Care Act markets covering 14.5 million.
While the prospects for a vote in Congress were slim, Biden was also calling for action on voting rights, gun control and police reform, which have been hampered by his Democratic majority.
Biden was expected to demonstrate what he has done so far – for example, by acting to combat “ghost guns”, improvised firearms that lack serial numbers used to locate them and are often purchased without a background check.
As for voting rights, the bill was delayed after Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema denied Senate Democrats the opportunity to use a solution that would allow them to pass the bill by a narrow 50-50 majority instead of 60 votes. usually required.
The congressional Democratic vote on the bill would bring about a major overhaul of the U.S. election in a generation, removing barriers to voting in the name of electoral security. Republicans say the changes are not aimed at justice but at giving Democrats an edge in the election.
Biden will also press the Senate to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman in the Supreme Court. He suggested it last week.
Ahead of the speech, the doctor’s office for Congress announced that it was lifting the House requirement for face mask after the federal government relaxed its instructions for using a mask. Now, the use of a mask will be a personal choice in the House of Representatives, which will be open to all members of Congress, but not yet guests.
Everyone in attendance should take a COVID-19 test before Biden’s speech.
Biden intends to use his remarks to highlight the progress made against COVID-19 over the past year and to lead the country into a “new phase” in tackling the virus that looks more like life before the pandemic.
Seat for Biden’s first speech to a joint congressional hearing last April was limited to about 200 people – about 20% of the usual capacity for a presidential presentation. White House aides were concerned that a rerun this year would be a murky image of the president’s message to the American people.
“I think you will see it look a lot more like a normal situation in the Union,” said Ron Klein, White House Chief of Staff. “It’s going to look like the most normal thing people have seen in Washington in a long time.”
As the masks came out, law enforcement officials re-erected a fence around the Capitol building. There were no specific or credible threats prior to Biden’s speech, but there were concerns about truck jerks heading to Washington to protest pandemic restrictions.
Associated Press author Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.
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